Tuesday, March 31, 2009

French Toast Casserole and today's specials

Panino specials are the TCB - turkey, cranberry & brie and the Apple Alexander - Granny Smith apple, honey and brie grilled on a ciabatta sub roll.

We have three soups, all of which are vegan. Veggie Chili, 16 Bean and African Peanut.

A number of people have expressed interest in the whole French toast "casserole" idea (which is really just a sweet version of our Strata), so this a little primer in how to make breakfast for 2-200 and be able to sit down and eat with your guests.

You make it the day before and just pop it in the oven about an hour before you want to eat. Brilliant, no? The following "recipe" will easily feed 8 hungry people. By adjusting proportions and pan sizes it is not much more difficult to feed 40 than it is to feed 4, which makes this a great idea for weekend guests, post-slumber party breakfast or a brunch. It also holds and reheats well.

French Toast Casserole
1 loaf bread, torn or cut into large "croutons", stale is preferred (any bread will do but an egg bread like challah or brioche is nice, as is cinnamon raisin or other "flavored" bread)
1 stick butter, melted
1/2 - 1 cup light brown sugar (use 1/2 c. if you plan to serve maple syrup. 1 cup will make caramel and is especially nice if you decide to add nuts and fruit)
12 eggs
2 cups milk or half and half
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (pinches of ginger and/or cloves would be nice too)
Optional: walnuts, pecans, diced apple, banana

Place melted butter in a 9x13 baking dish and sprinkle with brown sugar. Stir and distribute the butter/sugar mixture evenly. Sprinkle with nuts and/or fruit is desired.

Add bread to the pan. Slightly over-full is fine.

In a large mixing bowl whisk together eggs, milk, vanilla and spices. Pour the egg mixture over the bread and cover with plastic wrap. Don't worry if some of the bread is above the egg line, it will will wick up and saturate the bread. Refrigerate for a couple of hours or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Remove baking dish from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for about 20 minutes. Remove plastic wrap and bake 35-45 minutes until the top is browned and the custard has set (you can insert a fork in the center and pull bread aside to check). Let cool for about ten minutes before serving as hot sugar burns!

When you serve make sure to spoon all the way to the bottom and serve so that the caramel (nut, fruit) side becomes the top.

Savory version
Omit light brown sugar. Use any bread or combination of breads. Toss sauteed/steamed veggies, diced ham, browned sausage, etc. in with the bread cubes and press into buttered pan. Cover bread/veggie mixture with grated cheese. Whisk egg mixture omitting vanilla and spices and adding salt and pepper. Pour over bread. Let sit in refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight. Bake at 350° for 35-45 minutes until the top is browned and the custard has set (you can insert a fork in the center and pull bread aside to check). Let cool for about ten minutes. Makes eight large servings. Serve with a salad for a great brunch meal.